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Urban Consolidation Centers - A future perspective of the sustainable logistics in India

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

The efficiency of logistical linkages is critical to the success of cities. As a result, their continued development and economic advancement are inextricably connected to the expansion of logistics and infrastructure, particularly transportation. As a result, reducing road freight movement without ruining the demands of the city and its residents is tough. On the other hand, as the number of vehicle kilometers increases, so do the environmental impacts, and traffic congestion in core urban areas is expected to aggravate. Despite the multi-faceted interdependencies and important issues, city planners and administrations pay minor attention to logistics and freight transportation.


As one of the most important sectors of the economy, transportation has a substantial impact on the evolution of economic, social, and environmental issues. Growth and improvements in transportation infrastructure are considered driving factors in the Indian economy, according to the Planning Commission (2012).


Indices of Freight Traffic and Economic Trends; Source- (National Transport Development Policy Committee, 2014)


According to the NTDPC 2014 report, the road freight index will soon overtake the GDP index and has already surpassed the rail freight index in terms of growth. According to Russo & Comi in 2010 and Moazami & Naroozo in 2011, the cost of transporting goods rises at a much faster pace than the cost of transporting passengers.

While a study done by UNHABITAT in 2013 predicts that goods transportation accounts for 10 to 15% of vehicle equivalent kilometers traveled in urban areas, 2 to 5% of the working urban population, and 3 to 5% of urban land use, depending on the context. Outgoing freight accounts for 20 to 25% of truck kilometers in urban areas, while incoming freight accounts for 40 to 50%. This signifies an emergent need to focus on the freight moving in the cities.

As per Canadian reports, transportation costs in cities are 2.6 times higher than in the suburbs (Ogden, 1992). This explains the emerging trends require more logistics solutions in the cities in a sustainable manner.



Hazardous substances emitted have the biggest impact on local pollution when it comes to pollutant emissions in urban agglomerations. Carbon monoxide CO, aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, Sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide, and particulate matter PM are the chief environmental contaminants released into the atmosphere by the incineration of fuels (soot, tar). A single car may transfer 6000 liters of oxygen into fumes in one hour. A ten-kilometer ride in a diesel truck releases 9 kilos of CO2. In addition to carbon dioxide emissions, increasing vehicle numbers result in increased nitrogen oxide emissions as well as fine dust smog (Kijewska et al., 2016).

The era of e-commerce:

City logistics has received a growing level of attention in the era of e-commerce where the consumption rate in every city has increased. In order to overcome the developing difficulties and establish permanent solutions to improve the city's living standards, the situation needs a full investigation and active engagement of the authorities and businesses. In order to reduce the negative impact of logistical activities, particularly in terms of environmental impact and service quality. However, the changes are gradual and environmental trends are setting new experiments. The fundamental issue is the paucity of planning activities and a continuing city logistics policy. City planners' decisions are frequently insufficient because they are made without a thorough examination of the current state and interactions of urban freight, as well as research and studies of many parameters and their effects on the overall city logistics system. Therefore, City Logistics efficiently strives to achieve sustainability while overcoming the obstacles of Urban Freight and the externalities that come with it. Inadequate city logistics infrastructure can stifle a country's economic growth. The city logistics infrastructure has the potential to provide a basis for long-term success with more organized freight flow.in the city.


City Logistics is a part of the Supply chain that caters to issues caused by Freight traffic in the city by governing distribution patterns based on the characteristics of the city. One of the Infrastructure solutions under city logistics is Urban Consolidation Centre.


A solution to city logistics!

Urban Consolidation Centers are logistics hubs that serve a specific geographic region or the entire city, acting as a link between outbound and inbound logistics. Thus, by restricting the movement of heavy vehicles into the core areas or the historic centers of the city. It impacts the truck kilometers traveled in the city and a more organized freight movement can be achieved. UCCs not only have the potential to minimize these effects but also provide alternative distribution strategies by introducing new infrastructure facilities.



Urban Consolidation Center Concept

Source –UNDP & Ministry of Urban Development, GoI 2013 [1]


Various benefits linked with UCC are [2]-

• Increase the use of goods vehicles and boost distribution efficiency.

• For the final delivery, a specialized fleet of environmentally friendly goods vehicles could be used.

• A multi-user freight consolidation center (FCC) as a way of reducing truck impacts in an urban center has advantages.


The first step to understanding the concept of UCC embraces the fact that the characteristics of the city hold significance. The city may act as a distribution center for the towns in its vicinity. The consumption pattern and the economic trends of a city may affect the decision to recognize the need for UCC in that metropolitan area.


A few prominent case studies on Urban Consolidation Centers like the concept of Binnenstad service ascertains that the UCC is not recommended for the particular stakeholders or the end customers. This logistics facility may serve a particular group of stakeholders with limited items. In the case of Binnenstad Service, the UCC was introduced to produce an efficient manner of delivery to the retailers. The consignments were bundled and relinquished corresponding to the retailers’ convenience. So, the next step is to consult the stakeholders and a comprehensive survey for the stakeholders may help understand the level of success the UCC may achieve in that particular geography.



The freight pattern is studied and the supply chain is generated for further analysis. However, a proper locational evaluation of UCCs is found to be unpretentious which is ironic because it is the significant element in studying UCCs.


Think Scenarios!

Scenario change with UCCs; Source-(Author,2021)


Scenario-Based Thinking can be adapted to comprehend the potential of UCCs in an urban area – a with and without UCC scenarios.

To potentially locate the UCCs, few parameters – proximity to the core areas, time taken to deliver the commodities or the traveled truck kilometers in the core areas, Vehicular trips, the inbound frequency must be worked upon which eventually will help analyze the current freight pattern of a city.


Further, the UCCs can be a multidisciplinary opportunity with parking spaces, warehousing, and cross-docking facilities. The introduction of clean fuel vehicles and electric vehicles is a feature of UCC and can help reduce traveled kilometers and emissions in the core city area.

The success of UCCs is highly dependent upon the stakeholder’s response and the locations. Even if there are environmental benefits, customers may refuse to participate. As a result, administrative policies such as incentives and proper consultation with stakeholders may be able to aid in the triumph of this long-term concept.

[1] UNDP and MoUD. (2013). Development of Toolkit under Sustainable Urban Transport Project. Ministry of Urban Development. Government of India. 2013.

[2] SPAD. (2021). Unpublished thesis, Planning for Urban Consolidation Centres, Masters in Urban Planning. School of Planning and Architecture - New Delhi. 2021.


Disclaimer: Views published in the article are the author's creation and ACPN does not take any credit for the research or idea.

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